The _______________ my friend, is blowing in the wind....
Up and out of Florence we bussed for 3 hours nonstop to Verona. We picked up our tour guide as we entered the city and she was practical, informative, and opinionated. It was great. We parked at the Piazza dell'indipendenza and got off the bus. From here we walked into Verona. Crossing over the river using an ancient Roman bridge we stopped for a group photo, and then our resident (Ninja) ballerina donned her slippers once more for another pose. Placing her walking shoes and jacket carefully on one of the window ledges separating people from the abyss and river below, she stood on point and gracefully raised one leg behind her while bending forward out another window. After the photo shoot she went to retrieve her jacket, a simple feat had not a gust of wind picked it up and carried it out the window and over the wall just inches from her grasp. She watched as down it fluttered to be one with the ducks. The disappointment of the loss of this quality Roots jacket was eased by the fact that she also lost the Tim Horton's logo on its sleeve.
Entering the city square we were led past ancient Roman arches and a plethora of restaurants, which according to Marina, our guide, were not very good. We wound up at the arena. Verona, like many places in ancient Rome, had an amphitheatre where gladiatorial battles and executions took place. The pain and misery inflicted upon men in the past continues today for this is now the opera house.
Our guide took us over fossils captured in the marble walkways to Casa Di Giulietta, or Juliette's house. Here the walls of the entrance to the courtyard are lined with (mostly) love graffiti, and in the courtyard stands a bronze statue of Juliette. Legend has it that if you touch the right breast of Juliette it will bring you luck in love. Our guide was quite clear that this was not true, but some of our students did not listen. The patina on her right breast is a testament to the thousands of tourists who either believe this myth or just want a photo opportunity.
Also in the tiny courtyard were a few shops and a red mailbox where you could deposit your love letter to Juliette. There is a society that collects those letters and responds to each one! So if you happen to receive some post from Italy you will know your child is obviously a lover of Shakespeare...
We then moved on to Romeo's residence which is still a residence and not a tourist trap. Our walk continued through this lovely town and our guide pointed out this and that along the way. We wound up back at the amphitheatre/Opera House where Marina said ciao. It was also time for us to chow down, and as soon as they could students ran off for the restaurant with the panzerotti, or deep fried balls of yummy goodness that the guide had mentioned earlier in the day. I guess students were listening then. One must set their priorities!
After lunch we boarded the bus and drove beside the same route that the Roots jacket had taken as we headed for Venice. The weather turned as we got closer to Venice, and the jacket stealing breeze became a cold harsh wind that made the rain bend to its every whim.
We arrived at the Tronchetto, the place where we were to get our private water taxi to have a tour and take us to the island of Lido. We trudged through the rain from the bus to the docks to figure out what to do next. We thought there might be a place where you would go to and say "we're here!" But there was no such place. The public water transport booth was devoid of life, but we noticed the disembarkation of passengers from a boat proudly displaying our private boat company's name at Berth 3. Madame Ballam and I walked to the gangway to wait for the passengers to offload so we could talk to the boat operator, but as soon as the last passenger stepped off the boat and onto the gangway the gangplank was raised and the boat motored off leaving us standing there bewildered as what to do next. We looked around at nothing but empty berths and the backs of tourists heading for their bus. Plan B.
We phoned the boat operator and left a message. Plan C.
We returned to our students who were huddled under the meagre shelter to discuss options. There was another tour office right there with people inside, so we went to speak with them. The place was operated by the Ice Queen and Indifference Man. Indifference Man acted as if we didn't exist, the Ice Queen cast a look of disdain at us and offered "yes?". We asked if she could help us and explained our situation. "Sorry, we work for another company". Really! Oh, ok, sorry for disturbing you. We are, after all, polite. So back out into the cold driving drizzle and a few more phone calls and... nothing.
Plan D, for Don't know what to do.
We both walked up and down the pier again looking, hoping, praying for a sign. We saw nothing. Our 4 pm boat was now not even a 4:30 pm boat, and we were considering how to take the public transport, but thought why not try the Ice Queen one more time. That is when our prayers were answered. The sign we were looking for came in the form of a tall Dutchman by the name of Phil van Bourgondien. He joined us and strode up to the desk with the confidence of Matador. Upon gaining the attention of the Ice Queen his brilliant smile and charming demeanour melted the Ice Queen's heart, or at least thawed it a little, so that she actually picked up the phone and phoned the company for us. Indifference Man seemed unmoved by
Phil's charm, but it was hard to tell as he ignored us. Elsa got through and spoke with someone, and then she hung up. Looking at us she said "All you had to do was call. Berth 3" and then an audible snap was heard and she reverted to her former self as if suddenly flash frozen. Indifference Man suddenly continued ignoring us. We said an unheard thank you and headed back to the damp darkening drizzle.
We gathered our troops and returned to berth 3 where we had been standing before. Out of nowhere came two workers who asked "School group going to Lido?" Where were these guys 40 minutes earlier? Anyway, the boat came, we got on board, and we had our shortened private tour which was for the best because we couldn't see out the rain covered windows whose transparency was further diminished by the breath and drying clothes of 34 bodies. Once at Lido we looked for our guide...
He did show up, but was easily missed due to his meek manner. He quietly took us to our hotel, a 15 minute walk in the rain. Once there we issued room keys and there was a jubilant cheer when we announce free wifi. Small pleasures. All retired to their rooms to change into dry clothes, or rest, or logon for their internet fix.
Rooms were large, some having separate bedrooms. This was by far the nicest hotel, or at least a tie with our Paris hotel. One room had a kitchen and dining room table! The bathrooms were nice, and finally we were able to control the heat.
Dinner was a surprise, not because of the food but because of the procession of well dressed students who had taken the time to look their best. After dinner we congregated into a lounge area off the lobby, sat on the floor in a big circle, and we gave them a task - Be quiet. No talking. Think about this question: "What was the best thing, the most memorable thing about this trip?" We gave them several minutes to gather their thoughts, and then we started. The responses varied from the gelato to new found friends, and all the sites and happenings in between. I am certain you will hear many more highlights for weeks to come once we have returned.
Then it was off to bed for a full day followed by a very short last night.
Next up: Venice